Website Defacement

Web defacement is an attack in which malicious parties penetrate a website and replace content on the site with their own messages. The messages can convey a political or religious message, profanity or other inappropriate content that would embarrass website owners, or a notice that the website has been hacked by a specific hacker group.

Most websites and web applications store data in environment or configuration files, that affects the content displayed on the website, or specifies where templates and page content is located. Unexpected changes to these files can mean a security compromise and might signal a defacement attack.

Common causes of defacement attacks include:

Website Defacement Prevention Measures

While security best practices are important, they cannot prevent many attacks. The following techniques are used by automated security tools to comprehensively protect websites against defacement.

Regularly scan your website for vulnerabilities, and invest time in remediating vulnerabilities you discover. This will often be time consuming, because upgrading a website platform or a plugin might break content or site functionality. But this is one of the best ways to improve security in general, and reduce the chance of penetration and defacement in particular.

Ensure that all forms or user inputs do not allow the injection of code into your internal systems. Sanitize your inputs to prevent regular expressions, or any characters or strings that may be used to execute code.

XSS enables an attacker to embed scripts on a web page, which execute when a visitor loads the page, and can result in defacement, as well as other damaging attacks such as session hijacking or drive-by downloads.

Sanitizing inputs can help prevent XSS, and you should be careful not to insert user inputs or untrusted data into <script>, <style>, <div>, or similar tags in your HTML code. A web Application firewall (WAF) can also help prevent XSS by blocking communication with unknown or malicious external domains.

Most defacement attacks are not the result of a manual, targeted attack. Instead, hackers use bots to automatically scan a large number of websites for vulnerabilities, and when a vulnerability is discovered, they automatically compromise and deface the site. Hackers can achieve dubious fame by launching a broad, automated attack against thousands or millions of sites.

Bot management technology uses multiple approaches to mitigate bad bots, such as: static inspection of traffic headers; challenge-based detection, identifying bots by asking them to process Javascript or interact with CAPTCHA; and behavior-based inspection of website visitors to uncover bot traffic. These techniques make it possible to protect against malicious bots, ensuring that legitimate traffic can access to your site uninterrupted.

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